We have a cover for THE RISEN, the last in The Darkest Hand trilogy!
THE RISEN is a huge final novel, detailing the last two years of World War One, the growing revolution of Russia, the growing peril of The Darkest Hand and the growing shadow of the Antichrist.
Only Inquisitor Poldek Tacit can hope to defeat the forces of evil before they dominate and take control of the world, but nothing has been seen of him for the last two years.
Only rumours remain, rumours of something rising, rising from the depths.
THE RISEN hits the shelves 18th May 2017, and 2018 in the States and Canada.
Yes, it's true! ‘The Risen’, the final instalment of ‘The Darkest Hand’ trilogy is written! It’s been an epic four year journey, which began in the market square of Arras, France, at the end of October 2012 and ended on Sunday December 18th 2016 in my little office in the middle of Wiltshire.
It’s taken me from the killing fields of Belgium and France, around the world a couple of times, into Hell and the violent logic of Inquisitors. I’ve witnessed first hand the terror of the soldiers of the Great War, the claws and jaws of werewolves and the corruption that power brings.
And I’ve survived, if not quite completely intact - my eyes have blown (I now have to wear to glasses), I have a stoop from the thousands of hours spent writing the many manuscript revisions and a lump on my spine from bad posture, my belly has expanded, contracted and expanded again after years of self-inflicted abuse looking for inspiration and creative release, and sanity has been stretched perhaps once too often to ever return entirely back to where it should be.
The second in the series, ‘The Fallen’, took me 16 months and 9 rewrites to complete, and I thought that was hard work. But it turned out to be a walk in the park compared to the complexity, depth and twisting machinations that eventually became ‘The Risen’!
But the most important thing is it’s written! The one thing I wanted to achieve in my life, to write and publish a fantasy trilogy, is almost done.
I’m immensely proud of the final volume. It’s suitably epic, it’s hopefully satisfying to read and it should shock and entertain in equal measure.
It comes out in May this year in the UK and Australia, and the US and Canada in 2018.
So the Great War and The Darkest Hand trilogy all started in Sarajevo in 1914. ‘The Hunted’ is the prequel to the trilogy and documents events on that fateful day at the start of the war. It’s also readers’ first introduction to Inquisitor Poldek Tacit and the Catholic Inquisition.
Since its release, ‘The Hunted’ has been downloaded several thousand times by UK and Australian readers and has been an iBooks No. 1 bestseller. I am delighted to announce to my US readers that it is now available to download for FREE on iBooks and at Amazon.com in the States!
Happy New Year!
As Britain's summer seems to have now finally arrived, I’ve taken the opportunity to creep out of the shadows of my writing cell and take a break from writing The Risen, the third and final instalment of the Darkest Hand trilogy, to let you know about one or two things which have been going on lately with me and my books.
First and foremost, The Damned, the first book in trilogy, is currently just 99p on ebook at Amazon. Kirkus called it “Allegorical and erudite,” Publisher’s Weekly called it “fascinating and compelling” and the Daily Mail thought the mash up between World War One, the Catholic church and werewolves worked “surprisingly well”.
If you've not bought it already, or even if you I have bought it, now is your chance to pick up my ‘morally complex and fast paced’ debut for the price of chocolate bar! Unlike the chocolate bar, it's guaranteed not to blow your diet, but it might give you nightmares.
Secondly, The Hunted, which is the free prequel to The Damned, recently made it to the Number One spot in the fantasy and science fiction charts on iBooks. Naturally, I was absolutely delighted by this. People seem to be really enjoying this seven chapter ‘short’ involving Inquisitor Poldek Tacit in Sarajevo at the start of World War One.
If you've not already downloaded this free novella, you can do so at Amazon and iBooks.
Next, The Fallen, the second title in the Darkest Hand trilogy, was released in May this year and again has been really well received by the critics, The Mail suggesting that fans of Dan Brown would love this - and that it’s ‘rather more sophisticated, too’.
After the relative ease by which The Damned came together, The Fallen was entirely different kettle of fish, taking me 16 months and nine rewrites to get right. As a result, I'm delighted that it’s been so well received and that people seem both excited and intrigued as to where Tacit can possibly go next.
If you've not yet read The Fallen, you can buy it from all good bookshops, and buy or download it from all the usual online places. (It comes out in the States and Canada at the start of next 2017).
Finally, the third and last book in the Darkest Hand trilogy – The Risen!
So, it was all going so well! In January this year I put together probably the most detailed plan I have made yet ahead of writing a novel. On paper, everything looked great! Come February, I began writing to this plan with the intention of producing a first draft by the end of July. So far so good!
The only problem was that halfway through writing the book it started to occur to me that it wasn't really a Darkest Hand book at all! In fact, I didn't really know what sort of book it was, other than the fact I was certain it wasn't the sort of book I wanted to write.
A week away from it at the start of August, away from my laptop, manuscript and notes, in the beautiful south west of Ireland, gave me a chance to think and consider. One of the things that you find when writing a book is that you are so consumed whilst writing it, so close to the action, the characters and the words, that sometimes you cannot see when you've taken a wrong turn (* see below for a way of avoiding this I’ve since learnt!). Sadly, I think I took a wrong turn sometime around March.
Back in my writing cell one week later, I came to the rapid conclusion that I would have to start the book again! Now this sounds utterly drastic, demoralising and quite possibly terrifying, but the fact that I could easily see that the draft was not right actually made the decision an easy one, and one which I took both willingly and with great anticipation. The first two books have been so well received that I know sticking with what I’ve written would let down not just you, dear reader, but also would let myself down. The trilogy needs a big climax! The first draft wasn’t that.
In the week since returning, I've been working hard on a new plan and immediately feel much happier with its structure. It is a much more fitting end too what should be a powerful, exciting and moving final instalment!
The plan is to have something written by Christmas.
Whilst in Ireland I read Stephen King's book ’On Writing’. Part biography, part guide for the aspiring writer, it contained some fascinating suggestions as to how to write smart and write well without losing your marbles or your life along the way. What really struck a chord with me, particularly as when I write I really push myself mentally and physically over a long period of time, was the way in which Stephen King himself writes. And if you're as successful and as good as ‘the King’, other writers should probably sit up and take note.
Stephen King writes for only three hours every day, but he writes every day. He only writes in the morning, beginning at the same time every day. This approach not only gives him a life outside of writing, but it also gives him the opportunity to better consider what he has written and where he is going with his manuscript.
Once a manuscript is finished, Stephen King puts it in the drawer and leaves it there for six weeks. Only after this time does he revisit it and see if it still commands his interest and respect to take further. I probably could have done with the reading this book before I set out writing the Darkest Hand trilogy four years ago when I think about all the long morning and longer nights I’ve written, how I’ve pushed myself to breaking, and occasionally beyond, and how many rewrites I’ve had to do, probably because of the way in which I’ve written in a blind fury, rather than at a considered and careful pace.
Anyway it’s a book I recommend to all writers, published and aspiring alike. I intend to put his suggestions into practice - but not until 6.30am tomorrow morning!
Apologies for the silence. I'm not quite sure where the last few months have gone. I know I've spent an awful lot of time in my writing cell, working on The Risen, the third and final installment of The Darkest Hand trilogy, so much so that I think I'm starting to develop the vision of a ghost. In bright light I can't see a thing but in dark, gloomy conditions I've 20/20 vision.
Since the start of the year, a lot has happened with Inquisitor Poldek Tacit and his band of unmerry men.
The Damned was picked as one of the Book Depository's 'books of 2015', of which I was, of course, delighted.
The first installment in the set came out in the US and Canada as Hardback and ebook, and also as an audiobook, read by Peter Noble, in March.
And it continues to gain critical acclaim, with Kirkus calling it "Allegorical and erudite", Publisher's Weekly, "fascinating and compelling", and renowned author Tim Lebbon saying it's, "Fast, frenetic and deftly told."
Oh, the pressure to write a suitable sequel!!
Does The Fallen do its predecessor justice? I have absolutely no idea! I'll let you decide in just under a month's time. What I do know is I've written the best book I was able to at the time, and I've also spent longer on this book than anything else before. But for me, it's done, it's gone, and now I'm knee deep in the final book, and wading through bodies on not one but two fronts of World War One. It's not pleasant work, but someone has to do it.
See you in May, when Inquisitor Poldek Tacit returns - or does he?!!
Happy New Year! December turned out to be the perfect book end to the year. After toiling hard all of 2015 with book two of The Darkest Hand trilogy, The Fallen, my editor at Duckworth and I finally finished it and put it to bed - or at least under the nose of the line editor to sort out my misspellings!
It was a huge relief to finish it before the year was out and have some time off from writing to recharge the batteries. When I started to write the second novel in 2014, I was warned that The Fallen could prove be the difficult second album, and it certainly was. It sent me to the edge of sanity and, at times, over it. Writing a novel is a difficult thing to do. You doubt your abilities, you lose your writing voice and style, you question where you are going with the story and what you are trying to say - and with a follow up novel, these troubles are magnified.
We got there, in the end, just, holding on to the last of my marbles. The church bells rang in celebration that I had finished - and my mates breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn't be moaning any more to them about the trouble I was having.
And, most importantly, we've ended up with something I am proud of. It takes the thrills, spills and mystery of its predecessor The Damned and stretches them close to breaking point. The action and pace is unrelenting and, perhaps at times, unnerving. I think I've written something which really can be called a 'page turner' and which hopefully will not disappoint fans of my writing.
With the The Damned I set out to write something which would be my statement to the world, something to move and hopefully make people think. With The Fallen I've written something simply to entertain and excite. I sincerely hope it does.
It was lovely to have most of December away from the writing pad. I needed it, a chance to recharge the batteries, let the imagination restock and appetite return. At times I did find myself picking up my writing pad and jotting down some ideas but when those possible nuggets of inspiration do fall out of the fountain of creativity, you have to jot them down.
Now, fatter than I was a month ago but more fired up and raring to go, I've started to structure book three, The Risen. And it's already shaping up to be an appropriately huge conclusion to the trilogy. This detailed planning of a novel is a new thing for me. With The Damned, with Ripped, (a second unconnected novel I wrote), and The Fallen, I wrote without a coherent plan in place. I had a vague idea of where I wanted to get to and let the joy of writing take me there. I got lucky two times out of three, but the third time cost me dear in heartache and headaches, grey hairs, fingernails, my agent's patience, my mind and several of my years.
With The Risen I am taking a different tack and planning everything out meticulously. Story plan, chapter plan, character paths, everything worked out to the letter before I start. This way I'll hopefully save the sanity of all connected to the project, not to mention my own personal well being! Also, being a conclusion, everything needs to fit together and end beautifully. Or as beautifully as Inquisitor Poldek Tacit will allow.
And then that really will be the final 'book end'.
At some point in January, the plan for The Risen will be done and the writing will commence. By early summer I am hoping to have the first draft completed.
I somehow seemed to miss out November's newsletter. I can't think what I was doing …? Ah, yes! That's it! I was writing! Editing the manuscript of suggested edits from my publisher, Duckworth Overlook.
After an entire month off in October, where I caught up with everything else in my life - the day job, the wife, the kids, friends, fresh air, the world, November hit like a spurned lover.
I knew The Fallen, the second in The Darkest Hand trilogy, needed work, and boy did I give it some. I didn't quite need to rewrite it for a tenth time, but there was a lot which, rightly, needed to be moved about, a lot which needed ripping out and burying in a deep pit, as deep as man can go, never to be uncovered again, and a lot of new stuff which still needed to be written.
However, unlike previous times when the road I was walking/writing was a long and lonely one, here I had the signposts from my excellent editor to follow and worked on the manuscript knowing that everything now being done was about building upon, improving and enhancing, rather than trying to create from scratch.
Nearly seventeen months down the line and, (I am guessing here), about 1,500 hours worth of work, the manuscript is now back with my editor. The final straight has definitely been sprinted into. The finishing line is in sight!
The big question, I suppose, is The Fallen any good? Well, it certainly doesn't hold back. There's an awful lot of story, an awful lot of action, thrills and spills. If you liked The Damned, you should love The Fallen. There's a brand new World War One front to explore (the truly dreadful but little reported Italian front) and a whole host of shattering revelations. I also think it's a 'smoother' literary ride, in that there's not nearly so much jumping backwards and forwards in time, as there was in The Damned, (and had to be, I should add).
I'm proud of it. I've given it my absolute all. It's the best novel I could have written for this moment in time, and so I don't think I can or should ask for anything more.
I am having December off writing, with the exception of a further few amends and bits and pieces I am expecting back from Duckworth over the next week. A chance to recharge, take stock and prepare for book three, The Risen. I went horribly wrong in my approach to writing The Fallen, in that I sat down in September 2014 and starting writing it based on the plan in my head, rather than a clear and precisely worked out plan on my wall. It's how I wrote The Damned and my second novel, completely unrelated to The Darkest Hand trilogy, and got lucky with both those books working that way. Not with The Fallen. It almost killed me, all the false starts and rewrites.
I cannot repeat that with The Risen, book three of the trilogy, not only because it really will do me in, but I simply do not have the time! Late delivery on The Fallen has put me back a good four months on my publisher's deadline so I need to work smarter and have a clear plan of what I am going to write before I start writing. One of my few skills in life is being able to write quickly - when I know what I am writing. It's time to call on that skill now!
Have a lovely Christmas! If you're still 'umming' and 'ahhing' about gifts, why not buy your loved one The Damned - or maybe even buy it for yourself? What more could you want at this time of year than a clergyman with a gun and a gut full of anger?
It is done - for now. The Fallen was submitted to my publisher, Duckworth Overlook, on Monday 5th October. It had gone through nine rewrites and taken me 15 months to complete. It has driven me to distraction, tears, drink, exhaustion, and quite possibly the edge of sanity. And it's still not done!
What happens now is Duckworth read it, suggest edits and rewrites, and the process starts all over again. The big difference between now and then, is that I finally have a story that I believe in. Whereas everything before hung together like a poorly made tracksuit, the new manuscript has the feel of a Savile Row three-piece suit. There's room for improvement (of course), but it is beginning to read like a worthy sequel to The Damned, the reaction to which has been fantastic - and more than daunting!
I sincerely hope the manuscript is well received. I've worked harder on it than I've worked on anything in my entire life. In the first three weeks of September alone, I worked 147 hours on the manuscript (I know, I tracked my time - this on top of the 'boring day job'). Thank goodness I have an understanding wife, and kids who get into scrapes but know how to get out of them without me as well.
I won't give too much away, as it's liable to change anyway, but rest assured (for those who've read The Damned) the current manuscript has all the old favourites, plus a few others to haunt your nightmares. It's been written with care and love, but also a big fat lump of adrenaline, hate and violence. You have been warned!
After all this hard work, it's wonderful to see the world beginning to take Inquisitor Poldek Tacit to their hearts - who knew such a thing could be possible?! At the end of September, Tacit broke into the Top 25 Fantasy charts down under (and was chosen by Amazon Australia as one of their 'Picks of the Month' for October on Kindle), the top 40 fantasy charts in Japan (!!) and was a Top Ten bestseller in the Netherlands! Its success, to date, has stunned me, especially as I wrote it only to unleash a few demons of my own, never to produce a bestseller. I only hope that I can build on The Damned and do everyone who read and loved that book proud with an even better sequel. Believe me, between my agent, Duckworth and I, we intend to!
Back at the start of August, I submitted by 7th draft of the manuscript of The Fallen to my agent and put my feet up. I'd deserved it. I'd worked eleven months straight on it and was, quite frankly, exhausted and sick to the back teeth of it. If I never saw it again, it would be too soon.
Anyway, three weeks later and, yep, you guessed it, I'm starting work on the 8th draft. I am starting to understand why so many writers drink themselves to death or blow their brains out at their desks.
I was warned when I started on the second book that it would be the 'difficult second album'. Writing the sequel always is, apparently, and so it has proved. The pressure to improve on what came first, to show it wasn't a fluke, to deliver within the deadline. Well, I've failed on one of those already so, I'll try and make it two out of the three.
The comments didn't come as a surprise. I'm in complete agreement with them all. The premise of the book was shaky, there was an awful lot which just happened by chance, rather than by endeavour within the storyline, in parts it was light on detail and historical fact. It read like a man who had run out of ideas and the will to live. Like I had.
For all that, the spine of the book was still solid and there were some great action scenes which stood up to the scrutiny of my brilliant agent's editorial pen. So it's not a complete rewrite as I took it to be that first night I received the feedback, my head in my hands and my heart in my mouth. And, after a month off, with clear direction and energy reserves refilled, I'm raring to go, and the amends made so far are proving fruitful.
AND I know what eventually comes out the other end in a few week's time will be a far far stronger book, which is what everyone wants.
September is going to be tough going. Early starts, late nights, weekends given over to writing. Hey exhaustion is proving to be over-rated and my back teeth can take it.
It ended with a low moan of relief, rather than a shout of joy and a hurling of papers in the air.
Yes, I have done it. A complete draft of the second book in The Darkest Trilogy has been written! (I never thought I'd see the day - and if you've been following these monthly reports, I suspect neither did you!)
Finishing a novel - or at least a draft for your agent to read, tear apart and hand back to you with 'Must try harder' written across the top - is a peculiar experience. Whilst you have moments of euphoria and joy, occasional tightening of the guts and that rare but delightful sensation when something emboldening trickles out of your brain and floods into your heart as you write, writing a novel is a slog. A long hard slog, much like climbing a mountain.
Everyday you set off, your eye always on the summit, but your focus on the next camp ahead. You have good days when you make tremendous progress, almost sauntering along and you have terrible days, when you get blown off the mountain and have to haul your way back onto the path. (Let me tell you, when my software corrupted and mashed my entire, non-backed-up manuscript, into a ball of chopped and busted words, that was an avalanche which hit me that day on the mountainside!)
And if and when you get to the very top, you look about about yourself exhausted, admiring the view and think, "Crikey, that was a long way! What next?", too tired to really contemplate doing anything.
Only, of course, in my analogy, I am more at camp halfway up the mountain, rather than at the summit, because from here I get my agent's edits back, rework the manuscript accordingly, go back to the agent with another draft, then off to the publisher (hopefully), then more edits, and then … then I start on book three!
But we're not thinking about that at the moment. At the moment, as I write this, I am thinking about cold beer, behaving badly, reintroducing myself into my family again. Being a normal human being for the first time in nearly a year.
Novels are hard work, but that's why it feels such an achievement to complete one. I've written three now, including The Fallen which is the name of my latest, and with each one I am learning a little bit more about myself, about writing, about pace, characters, and hopefully improving each time as well.
Writing novels comes at a cost, to health (both mental and physical health), materially and with those around you. On my Facebook account, I tried to succinctly capture what writing this latest book cost me. It pretty much sums it up.
"So 11 months, 7 rewrites and false starts, four bumper black ink cartridges, 2 printers, 2,220 sheets of A4, 2 chairs, least a hundred more grey hairs, chest pains, bags under my eyes, a stoop, tears, self-harming, a pitiful weekend away in Weymouth, 128 2 litre bottles of sparkling water, crates of beer and wine, whiskey and whisky, sleepless nights too many to number, writing sessions at 3am, writing sessions at midnight, more coffee than the annual output of Brazil, more tea than all of Sri Lanka produced in the noughties, an ink pen, a sharpie pen, my nails, my sanity, my children's holidays and birthdays, nights too many without my wife, and a million plus words condensed down to 104,000, I have finally submitted a draft of The Fallen to my literary agent."
As my friend and fellow author Russell Mardell said, "Why do we keep doing it? It's either an addiction, therapy, stupidity or masochism. Likely all of them." And I think he's right.
But right now I'm off to the funny farm, with a beer in my hand.
So in June I joined a writing club.
Well, a mate (who's read The Damned) suggested I join it (should I be reading anything into that?!) and my experience of people who hang around books is that they're almost always good people.
It's the first writing club I have ever joined, which seems rather back to front, in that I suppose you're meant to join a writing club in the hope of it helping you get a publishing deal, not the other way around. But writing is a lonely business, and unless you surround yourself with writers and critics on a daily basis, which I don't tend to do (plenty of critics from family members mind!), the natural human reaction is to do what mankind does as a whole and become stuck in a rut.
I'll admit that it felt rather peculiar going back to school, wandering in like the new kid and finding a desk amongst the rows, taking out my jotter and writing my name at the top of a new page. (I didn't do that really, but I did write the date and underlined it too). And then doing literary exercises; reading a passage of published text and from it identifying its strengths and weaknesses, creating our own character descriptions and mannerisms, all of which we then discussed at great length.
The marvellous Salisbury writing circle I attended is run by the talented and brilliant Tom Bromley (you can read all about him here - http://www.tombromley.co.uk/) who made me feel very much at home, as he did the other 30 or so writers in the room, advancing our appreciation and application to writing with his searing insight and astute considerations as to what constitutes good writing.
We discussed the qualities of the novel 'We are completely beside ourselves' and picked holes in '50 shades' (bless it) for its continued use of raised eyebrows, at which point I realised how much I relied on my own characters 'rolling their eyes' and thought, "Jeez, I really need to up my game here."
And that's the beauty of sharing and discussing literature with people. Sticking your head above the parapet and chatting to other fellow writers gives you that shot in the arm, after having spent so long alone in your bunker, stripped to your underpants and writing feverishly, sweat dripping down your neck, one eye on the clock, one on your manuscript, hoping, praying that you reach a conclusion to the chapter you're working which tightens the heart chambers and shivers the spine.
It was a Wednesday evening well spent. And the beer afterwards tasted good too.
Back to the torture chamber then, aka my office, and to Book Two, The Fallen, with a bump. It's still a mess, but I am now daring to call it a beautiful mess, and from out of the months of struggle, between the lines of pained prose, I am starting to see something appear which I am becoming quite proud. Only now, well advanced with it, am I beginning to I understand why it's been such a struggle. The second book's got an awful lot in it, a lot of characters, a load of intertwining story lines, a hell of a lot of action and, quite frankly, has been a daunting and challenging task to write. But the wheels are turning, the planets are aligning and I am now beginning to believe. The other night I wrote the best chapter of the book so far and the end is beginning to twinkle on the horizon.
I am starting to get excited.
When I do poke my head up over the battlements, I snatch brief messages from Duckworth, my publisher, about the fantastic first month sales for The Damned and rumours about a 2nd print run on its way. This all sounds very good, but I approach getting published and life after getting published with the same inane look and easy attitude I've adopted most of my life. I've set myself no goals or expectations, so anything will be a bonus!
The reaction to The Damned has largely been very positive indeed. There's been a couple of blips along the way which have rankled briefly, but I've since worked the pins deep into the voodoo dolls and can laugh now about the more unfavourable reviews. I've realised that The Damned is punchy novel. There's no middle ground. It's marmite. You either love it or hate it, which was what I thought it would be when I first wrote it. It's at times a demanding book and doesn't pull its punches. It's also foxed just a few people who've entirely misunderstood what it is and what it is trying to say. But life is a circus and full of clowns.
I always knew getting published would just be half the job. It's all very well having written this life's work, but just because you think it's good doesn't mean anyone is going to come looking for it and say nice things about it. As a writer I am learning you need to do an awful lot of the publicity yourself. Book bloggers, press, friends, relatives, they all need buttering up to help spread the world of your work. You think you write a book and everyone will want a piece of it but the opposite is in fact true. No one wants your book and you have to work even harder than you did when writing it to convince them as to why they should want it. After all, everyone has a book in them, so why should they read yours?
It's been a fascinating journey and all the more exciting to know I still have a long way left to go. Goodness, I've learn so much and am still learning. I want to be the very best I can be and that will take application, dedication and an awful lot of hard work. I suppose I better keep attending class then.
I have this torn out page from a magazine on the wall of my office, right next to where I write. I can see it above the ever growing piles of manuscripts of Book Two drafts on my desk. It's a 'Things to Do' article from TimeOut about 'How to get published' my brother in law sent to me when I first started writing The Damned, the first in The Darkest Hand trilogy, three years ago.
It has this impoverished looking badger (no, I'm not sure why a badger either), tapping away at a laptop in a crumbling dirty room, with discarded paper and takeaway cartons strewn all around him, along with five bits of sage-like advice for getting published.
It's intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and I get it, but now that I am published, the scene, even the night-time, hole dwelling creature, seems still strangely familiar. Actually, things seem to becoming more like it by the day!
Neil Gaiman said he became a writer so he 'wouldn't have to get out of bed in the morning.' But what about if you never get into it in the first place?
I don't want to moan or complain. I don't want people to look the other way when I approach because they think, 'here comes that miserable sod who's achieved his literary dream and still ain't happy'. All my adult life I've wanted to become a published author. It's taken grit, determination, imagination, a hell of a lot of hard work and luck too and I still pinch myself when I consider just what I have achieved. I'm extremely lucky and appreciative. But life at the moment is such that I just cannot rest on my laurels and take it all in. Deadlines are looming, the day job is unrelenting, and CERN still cannot bend time to give me more of it.
Much like when I was signed to Duckworth Overlook for the three book deal, the book launch sort of stuttered into existence rather than erupted in a blinding flash of wonderment. Amazon seized the moment, when the first shipment of books started arriving and began selling them a week ahead of the official launch date. Waterstones suggested they'd sell to anyone asking for it by name but couldn't advertise it or put it out onto the shelves until the official release date. Other high street bookstores however started selling it openly online and in store, and Waterstones followed suit, and two days after the official launch of the 21st, my agent wished me good luck, tongue in cheek, for the launch on the 28th May, the day Amazon were still advertising as the official launch day! I'm beginning to understand this is the way things are done in the literary world.
On the Saturday between the official launch and the advertised launch day, I hosted my official book launch at the gothic wonder that is Salisbury Cathedral School. 120 friends, family, my brilliant agent and wonderful publisher gathered together and had what can only be described as a 'right proper knees' up which would have made even Poldek Tacit's eyes water. It was a fantastic evening, a chance to spend time around warm and generous people and say thank you for all they had done. And Sunday morning was suitably difficult to manoeuvre.
The last date in my literary calendar was my first book signing at Salisbury Waterstones. You hear some horror stories about book signings, the author as popular a presence as leprosy. But it was a true joy to meet people genuinely keen to say 'hello' and support a local author and understand what it was like to be one. "Well, I'm a badger, in a dusty darkened room, surrounded by pizza boxes..."
Aside from all the fun and hilarity of launches and signings and debauched behaviour, there has also been the serious business of writing The Fallen. Things are coming on. I hesitate to add the word 'well' to that previous line, because I have been here before and done a subsequent u-turn weeks later. But the current overall structure feels much stronger and appropriate a follow-up to The Damned. I just need to bend three months into two and everything will be fine. I know though that I cannot, and must not, rush writing it. The feedback to The Damned has been incredible. There seems to be genuine admiration for the book which has been very humbling and I know that I owe it to people who have bought it to ensure the sequel surpasses everything which has gone before.
And so it's business as usual here in my writing bunker, eyes down, mind turning, pulse racing, whilst the piles of manuscript continue to grow. Come September, I expect no longer to be able to see the 'Things to Do' article from my desk, nor emphasise with the figure captured within it!
"Cometh the month, cometh the man!"
As I write this latest entry into my ever growing document to literary life (aka "trying to hang onto my sanity"), Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, the main protagonist in The Damned, is poised to thrust his size fourteen boots into the lives of all discerning readers, and anyone else attracted by the silver embossed barbed wire and the howling wolf on the front cover. Three weeks and counting till The Damned is available to buy in all good book shops. Just where did the time go?
It really does seem like yesterday when I sat down with the plan to write some ghastly five book World War One epic based on my experiences of walking around the trenches of France and Belgium. Two and half years later, here we are about to publish instead a compact, brutal, inspiring and, I hope, moving historical thriller which will leave readers wanting, desperate even, to read more.
Which feeds neatly on to the next question I am persistently asked. "How's book two coming on?"
Since starting to write book two I have perfected my dead eyed stare and shambling gait, which usually is enough to warn anyone off from inquiring about it further. Admittedly, they often follow up the initial failed question with, "You must be feeling so excited at the moment? How are you feeling, just weeks from publication?"
My answer is most times as miserable as Tacit's demeanour. "Knackered," I mutter, before shambling off in search of the nearest laptop or strong drink.
It's no secret. I have struggled with book two. 'The difficult second album'. I've not struggled with writer's block. I've not struggled for ideas. I've just struggled for good ideas, something which doesn't just build on The Damned but blows the predecessor out of the bloody trenches. I really want The Fallen, the name of the second book of the trilogy, to surprise and astound readers. I've long realised that I'm not a writer who can just turn the handle and create. I have to feel it, write it from the heart, ingrain myself within the fabric of the prose. I hope that comes across in what I write. And that way of writing is a great barometer for me to see if I am producing stuff that fits and genuinely moves, or if, as has happened so often recently, it's reared off into the crazier parts of the literary mind.
April was hard work. I battled hard with plot, characters and my own abilities as a writer. But at 3.30pm on a Sunday towards the end of the month at the end of a very very long wet weekend away in Weymouth writing on my own in a caravan, a light came on, the fire lit once more in my belly, and everything revealed itself to me.
"Cometh the month! Cometh the man!"
I know now that Tacit never in fact went away. He's always been in me. I just needed to dig deep and find him again. After months of pain, desperation and resolute hard work, I really do think I've done that and that The Fallen will be even better than The Damned. Of course, only time will tell.
But, for now, let's wave a flag for my debut, and raise a very large drink in its direction. I know Poldek Tacit would approve.
Oh, and if you've not already downloaded the short FREE ebook prequel to The Damned, The Hunted, do so now, before it's too late!
When Forrest Gump compared life to a box of chocolates he was definitely onto something. Whilst my culinary tastes fall a little lower from chocolate delights, reduced to the pick and mix the kids usually select and hand to me as the lights go down at the cinema, the twists and turns of life really can be compared to those choice treats which lie inside crackling boxes or bags.
Some things in life are fabulous, some things surprise you and other things are plain bloody awful, just like those overpriced chemically-enriched chews and soft foam shapes sold in those germ-gathering plastic containers at the foyers of cinemas.
March, for me, was just like munching my way through an oversized bag of pick and mix. There were some fabulous surprises, (jelly foam fangs), in the shape of an audio book deal for my first two books. Then there were gruesome moments, the black liquorice chew, where I realised that I had gone off in completely the wrong tangent throughout January during my mammoth writing sessions for Book Two. I had inadvertently turned my second book into the monstrous bastard cousin of The Two Towers, and whilst I dream Tolkien in my sleep, Tolkien I am not. But then again, who is? The outcome? 65,000 words unceremoniously put to the sword. Damn you liquorice!
Then there was the moment that I found those moreish foam mushrooms nestled in the bottom of the bag, equivalent to the news that The Damned had gone to print. A moment to relish and saviour. Then followed further great news, the sherbet filled flying saucer, that several prominent persons within the literary world had read my debut novel and had really liked it!!
March it seemed, and those succulent sweets within the pick and mix, was not so bad after all.
And I then I found midget gems, those tiny square cubes of cow gum which always have tasted more like soap than sweets to me, and writer's block struck my world. Big time.
The midget gems (aka writer's block) have stuck firmly to my gums (and hung around) ever since. I've been trying to pick them out of my teeth so that I can progress with Book Two. With every passing day, I've been picking and swearing I'll never put my hand inside a pick and mix bag again.
With Book Two it's all there, all the plans and ideas and plot and characters, but can I finish it off? Not with all this soap tasting gum wedging my mouth closed I can't. I'm half way through and jammed up. But I know that writer's block is a state of mind, rather than a statement of fact. You just have to keep going, keep writing stuff, keep getting the words down on paper and the number count going up and you will eventually breakthrough. I know, I've been here before. The only difference between then and now is that I am up against a deadline - four months and counting.
So it seems that with this particular pick and mix bag I am going to have to keep eating right down to the bottom. And once I've done so, I'll have finished my novel, no matter how sick I feel by the end of it!
I am now a literary parent. I've given birth to The Hunted, the prequel to The Darkest Hand trilogy, which came out as a FREE ebook on February 24th 2015. To become a published author is something I have dreamed about and worked towards for over twenty years. For it to finally become reality is truly wonderful, if rather surreal.
I'm delighted, but for something I have pursued for half my life, I feel surprisingly composed and matter-of-fact about the whole thing. I'm not sure why exactly! I feel very honoured and lucky to be where I am and suspect that it simply hasn't sunk in yet.
Of course, it might be because writing is still something which has to fit in around the money earning day job. Maybe it's because I'm currently mired in writing Book Two? I've also learned that the long route from finishing a novel to getting it into the public domain as a published piece of work is a million miles away from that sudden hot charge of adrenaline when your agent says they love what you've written or the publisher asks for your signature. After the hard, but fun, part of writing the novel, there then follows the administration side of things, the policies to follow, the schedules to adhere to, the post-production to apply, the editing, the re-editing, the re-re-editing. All very important, but I now have a squint which I know wasn't there when I first began this journey.
But it's a squint I carry with pride.
Anyway, we go to print tomorrow (at the time of writing this entry) with first of The Darkest Hand trilogy, The Damned, and then there really is no turning back! I love books; the feel of them, the weight of them, the smell of them. I can't wait to hold my own book in my hands!
February was spent taking the first draft of my second trilogy book, currently called The Fallen, or 'little shit' when things aren't going so well, and turning it into a half decent second draft. It's a rewarding part of the process, where you can see these rough and uncouth words begin to turn into something semi eloquent and ambitious. I'm halfway through, but not halfway to finishing the thing. After all, Book One had seven drafts, so this is just the beginning. And the clock is ticking!
We go into March with one eye on what happens with the prequel, but the primary focus on making Book Two as good as possible. After all, once a book is written and the administration and policy and scheduling and post-production and editing and re-editing is all done, there's really very little else you can do but hope this thing you gave life to behaves and makes a good name for itself.
Much like being a parent in the real world, I suppose. Now, pass me the literary Calpol, Book Two is playing up.
New Year resolutions for me have always entailed drinking less, exercising more and trying to be kinder to people who own chihuahuas. So a bit of a change this year, the resolution being to write 60,000 words of Book Two of the trilogy (currently known as THE FALLEN) in January. I fell short, but only by 848 words, so I think I can forgive myself for just missing the target.
It was a strangely rewarding thing to do, and far more physically and mentally draining than I expected. 2,000 words a night, every night, the count growing if a daily target was missed. What it did was ensure that there was no opportunity to sit and ponder and consider and procrastinate. It’s a daunting place to be, starting a new book. I liken it to a climb up a mountainside. You’re looking up and seeing the long road winding away towards the very top of the mountain - your finished novel. Sometimes it’s easier to take a rain check and come back tomorrow or look at the different paths leading towards the peak and wonder just where and how you can possibly begin.
But the self-imposed deadline didn’t allow me the comfort of coming back tomorrow. I simply had to set off and write. And because I had to write, the words flowed and the book was given a firm push in the right direction - I hope! I also didn’t worry too much about the quality of the words, only the quantity of them. What I have now are 100,000 mediocre words and six months to turn them into masterful words (or as good as I can get them!). And it’s a lot easier to rewrite than it is to write from scratch. Ask any author.
So after that knuckle busting, brain searing, sleep depriving experience that was January, I am hoping for a little more peace and quiet. I don’t think I’m going to get it! THE HUNTED, the prequel to THE DAMNED, comes out in the next few weeks, all being well. This is a short sharp kick in the guts of book, where you’ll get to meet Tacit in all his unhinged glory and begin to get an inkling into the kind of world he inhabits. It’s a scary and exciting place and hopefully will leave you wanting to fully immerse yourself in it with THE DAMNED come May.
We’ve also agreed on the title for the trilogy. I’ve never been a titles man! I can write the books but I can’t name them! The publisher suggested THE DARKEST HAND as the name of the trilogy and I think I rather like it. It fits very nicely.
We gave away 20 copies of THE DAMNED on GoodReads, as well as lots of copies outside of Shoreditch Station, and are starting to get some wonderful reviews on the GoodReads site. You can read them here. I am very touched and somewhat amazed that people have said such nice things about it. I’m very proud of it - it was the best book I could have written at that time - and to read that other people love it as well is wonderful. I will try and make Book Two even better for you! After the January that just went by, I know that I have no excuses!
Now, where’s that chihuahua?
Happy New Year!
Is it too late now to wish you that? After all, it is (at the time of writing) the 6th January and we’ve all now returned to work and school runs and the Christmas / New Year thing is just a distant memory and four extra pounds on the weighing-scales. Well, I’ve done it now, so the sentiment will have to stay. And it is a genuine one; I am very happy to see 2015 finally arrive and I’m sure it’ll be an exciting one. After all, it’s the year of my debut novel, and things don’t get much more exciting than that!
Shortly after New Year, as the last residues of New Year’s Eve’s debauchery were leaving my system, I put a big fat dot on the final page of the final part of the final line edit of THE DAMNED, packaged it up and sent it back to the publishers for them to try and pick their way through my comments and dreadful handwriting. My work, fingers crossed, is now done on it. It’s been an epic project, started back in October 2012 and destined to see the light in May 2015.
It is very nearly finished. And I am very proud of it too.
But there’s been no time to sit back and enjoy the moment. I’ve also been putting the final touches to the short 10,000 word prequel, THE DARKEST HAND, which will be available to download for FREE from various online outlets in February. This introduces the main character, inquisitor Poldek Tacit, as we follow him on the eve of World War One trying to infiltrate the shadowy world of a planned political assassination which, if successful, might trigger dire consequences across the region and, perhaps even, Europe. It’s like a short sharp punch in the kidneys for the reader, whereas THE DAMNED is more like going 15 rounds with a heavyweight. But I hope you enjoy it when it’s available. We’re still agreeing on when exactly it’ll be available in February, the date as difficult to agree upon as a night out with a member of the Black Hand. But watch this space for details.
I’m also waist deep in book two of the trilogy, THE FALLEN. I won’t say too much about it at the moment, as I don’t want to give away any plot (otherwise I might vanish at the hands of my publisher like soldiers do crossing No Man’s Land in THE DAMNED), but suffice to say it’s action packed, packs a punch and has shocks and surprises a plenty. I’m halfway through the first draft and very pleased with how it is evolving, despite the odd moment of despair.
Last, but by no means least, I am finding myself popping up in all manner of unusual (and not so unusual) places in the press and at various events. So if you spot me, please do come up and say hello. It’s a strange and at times scary world I’m finding myself wandering into and it would be good to know my friends are still joining me on this exciting journey!
Happy New Year!
Hope to see you in February when Tacit stamps his large size fourteen boots down onto your life.
Well, here we go then, the first 'newsletter' for my web site and of my literary career! I've written plenty of newsletters for clients in the past about swimming pools and perfumes and how to get to number one in Google. But this is something completely new, certainly exciting and very enjoyable; writing about my achievements doing something that I've dreamed about since I was eight years old!
It's been an incredible two years for me. Almost to the day, I sat down in 2012 and started working on my novel which would eventually, after seven rewrites and countless edits, become THE DAMNED. One year after much polishing I'd managed to get representation from the best literary agency in the world, LAW, and, six months later, with their guidance and drive managed to attract interest from the best publisher in the world, Duckworth Overlook.
I feel very lucky, happy - and in need of a rest!
I am very proud of my debut novel THE DAMNED. I've put everything I have into it, every ounce of energy, emotion and empathy I possess, and I think this shows in the end result. I've learnt so much in the last couple of years, not just about writing but about myself as well. I now know that a novel reveals as much to the author as it does to the reader. I read some passages from it and wonder where on earth the words came from, did they really form inside of me? But that's one of the things I've learnt whilst being on this incredible journey, when you switch off as a writer and let the words come naturally, they often surprise you in their depth and their intensity.
THE DAMNED is the first in a trilogy featured tortured inquisitor Poldek Tacit. I'm not exactly sure where he came from. He just walked into my life one day and I realised I'd met someone very special, but also someone I was probably wise not to cross. Whilst Tacit is an alcoholic, a religious fanatic and, quite possibly, a sadist, I think there's a lot in him we can all appreciate and emphasise with. We've all had that creeping dread as Sunday night draws to a close and Monday morning and the working grind is just one sleep away. We've all had meetings in the diary we've really not wanted to face, with potential outcomes we don't want to consider. We've all worked with people, clients and colleagues, we cannot abide and whom we would have loved to have been able to tell to find the nearest bridge and quietly leap off. Why I love Tacit, and why I hope you will too, is because he's not afraid to do exactly that, tell the world how it is, but he's as damaged and as fragile as the rest of us, if not more so.
Here's the book cover for UK and Australian editions.
Set in 1914 during the Outbreak of War, the actions starts in the French city of Arras when a Catholic priest is brutally murdered. The Catholic Inquisition - still powerful, but now working in the shadows - sends its most determined and unhinged of Inquisitors, Poldek Tacit, to investigate: his mission to protect the Church from those who would seek to undermine it, no matter what the cost.
Yet as Tacit arrives, armed forces led by Britain and Germany confront each other across No Man's Land. As the Inquisitor strives in vain to establish the truth behind the murder and to uncover the motives of other Vatican servants seeking to undermine him, a beautiful spirited woman, Sandrine, warns British soldier Henry Frost of a mutual foe even more terrible lurking beneath the killing fields that answers to no human force and wreaks their havoc by the light of the moon. Faced with impossible odds and his own demons, Tacit must battle the forces of evil, and a church determined at all costs to achieve its aims, to reach the heart of a dark conspiracy that seeks to engulf the world, plunging it ever deeper into the conflict.
Morally complex and fast paced, this is a gripping work of dark fiction set in an alternative twentieth century, where humanity's desire for love, compassion and peace face daunting challenges in a world overwhelmed by total war and mysterious dark forces.
I must have written over a million words in my lifetime as an author, but I do feel that the 120,000 in THE DAMNED are my best to date.
Since finishing THE DAMNED, I've been busy working on the sequel, THE FALLEN, which follows Tacit in his quest to discover the truth behind the growing darkness within the world and avert disaster which will see all the world embraced in the fires of war.
So, whilst I would love a break away from the keyboard this Christmas, I think it might have to wait for a while. After all, I'm now an author on a deadline, and that's something I didn't dream of saying two years ago!
All the very best. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!